70th Anniversary of Holy Cross Lutheran Church + Luke 19:1-10 + June 5, 2016

+++We've updated the way we post our service information for those who worship in their homes on Sunday mornings. The hymns have been hyperlinked to a sound file for your use. By this we hope to encourage our dispersed members to sing the same hymns we are singing in the Divine Service. Please note, these hymns begin with a brief introduction, so don't start singing right as the organ begins. +++

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #640 God the Father, Son, and Spirit
Hymn #467 Built on the Rock, The Church Doth Stand
Hymn #473 The Church’s One Foundation 

Introit - pg. 94
Readings
1 Kings 8:22-30
Revelation 21:1-5
Luke 19:1-10

Collect for the Anniversary of The Parish
Lord, God, heavenly Father, the unfailing Giver of good gifts, we thank Thee that Thou didst this day enter into this house with Thy Word; and we heartily beseech Thee continually to dwell among us with Thy Word and Thy Sacraments, so that by Thy grace we poor sinners may be converted unto Thee and saved eternally; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel




In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

1)         Christ our Lord enters Jericho to pass through it. He is on His way to Jerusalem for His final Passover. As He passes through the magnificent city, a crowd swarms around Him, almost as if the entire city had come out to see this man who claims to be the Messiah. That includes Zacchaeus, a man of short stature but great wealth. He was the chief tax collector of that area and from that vocation he had made all sorts of wealth, perhaps some of it gained illicitly. Zacchaeus had heard of this man Jesus and His affinity for people commonly called “tax collectors and sinners,” so he seeks out Jesus. “He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd.” Zacchaeus must’ve really wanted to see Jesus, to discover who He was, because it that moment he throws off all the decorum that came with his social standing as chief tax collector, and climbs a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus as He was passing by. “When Jesus came to that place, He looked up, and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’” Jesus had been passing through Jericho, but when He comes to the exact tree in which the short man was perched, he decides to stay. In fact, it’s almost as if Jesus entered Jericho for this purpose, to seek out this man Zacchaeus. When Jesus says, “for today I must stay at your house” it is better translated as “Today it is necessary for me to abide in your house.” Jesus sought Zacchaeus out, and bid him come down from his tree. Jesus wanted to come into his house and share a table with him.

2)         As Jesus abides there in the house of Zacchaeus, He no doubt preached to the entire household and all Zacchaeus’ friends and colleagues whom the chief tax collector invited. He no doubt taught about the kingdom of God, true repentance from sin, and the righteousness of faith. Being so near to Jerusalem, and inching closer toward His passion and death, Christ more than likely expounded upon His work, that “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31). His preaching would have filled the ears of Zacchaeus and all his friends who sat at table with Jesus, and that by that preaching Christ created faith in their hearts which believed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, who had come into the world to atone for all their sins. This is evident in what happens next. Zacchaeus stands up and says, “Look, Lord, I give half my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”Jesus responds with glorious words, “Today salvation has come to this house.” He does not say this because Zacchaeus has earned this salvation by his good work and vow to give half his goods to the poor. He bestows this blessing upon Zacchaeus because Zacchaeus believes the gospel, for Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” Up to this point Zacchaeus had been a son of Abraham genetically, but now he was a spiritual son of Abraham, who himself, “believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Zacchaeus believes Christ’s promise of the forgiveness of sins and that faith was credited to him for righteousness, just as Abraham was declared righteous by faith alone.

3)         Christ entered a house, full of tax collectors and sinners, and brought salvation that house. Christ turned a den of thieves and robbers into a most glorious church. For He entered the house, preached His gospel, and by His Word worked repentance in their hearts, faith in the promise of the gospel, and the fruits of faith, good works, in their lives, especially Zacchaeus. The formation of a church of tax collectors and sinners may not appear all that glorious in the eyes of the world. But the formation of that small church was far more glorious than even the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple. On that day “the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11). But on this day, God in human flesh entered the house of Zacchaeus and filled it with His glory which is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The glory revealed is not that of wrath and condemnation for sinners. It is the grace and truth of Christ Jesus, that God condescends to Zacchaeus’ flesh, finds his tree, and enters his house in order to bring salvation to it and make it a most glorious church.

4)         Today salvation has come to this house.” For seventy years salvation has come to this house. Not this house in particular. This sanctuary didn’t exist seventy years ago. But nonetheless, seventy years ago Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Kerrville Texas was formed. And it was not formed by a group of people who decided to start a new Lutheran Church. I’m sure that’s what it looked like to everyone at the time. But the church is not a voluntary association of like-minded individuals. People do not form churches. Christ forms churches. He does this as He did for Zacchaeus. Christ enters into the house and brings salvation to it through the gospel, which is always efficacious because it is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). The church is not a voluntary association of like-minded people. It is the creation of Christ, who is the head of the Church. Seventy years ago, Christ, working through His Word, gathered sinners together around the word of the gospel and formed Holy Cross Lutheran. Christ entered into this house and brought salvation. For seventy years Christ has made this place a congregation of the God’s saints gathered around the Word purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered. For seventy years this congregation has been a fold of sheep who weekly hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, speaking to them through His Word and His Sacraments so that they hear and believe the gospel.

5)         Like the house of Zacchaeus, our small flock may not seem that impressive to the eyes of the world. But Christ is not interested in the size of His congregations. If He were, He would have told us so in His Word. Christ does not care as to the size of His flock in any given place. To one place He gathers many sheep. To another place He gathers few. The gathering at the house of chief tax collector would have been but a few people as well. But Christ was present there, abiding that day in the house. Christ was preaching the gospel there. Christ was teaching the Word in that place. And wherever Christ is through His Word, there is a most glorious church, a most blessed pasture where Christ’s lambs “lie down in green pastures and are led beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). I understand that it can be difficult to look around and see so many empty pews. I feel the frustration that comes whenever someone abandons this flock for what they think are greener pastures, but are not, since those places don’t have the gospel purely preached and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution. Seeing these things and feeling these often lead us to doubt God’s gracious presence here. But for this we must repent. Then we must rejoice in the example of the house of Zacchaeus, which though it was small, it had the Word of God! It had Christ Himself, so much so that the Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house!  So we are to rejoice that Christ maintains the ministry here! Rejoice that here the gospel is purely preached for the forgiveness of your sins! Rejoice that our Lord graciously gives us repentance and faith each week in His sacrament! Rejoice that in this place He still gives His salvation.

6)         It is very interesting to me that seventy years ago, the saints whom Christ gathered here named this congregation Holy Cross. They probably named it for the Festival of the Holy Cross, which is celebrated on September 14. The very name of this house preaches the gospel to us, for it is the preaching of the holy cross that bestows upon sinners all the blessings Christ won for mankind upon the wood of the holy cross. It is the holy cross of Christ to which we look for our redemption. It is the holy cross where Christ atoned for the sins of all humanity, so that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. But the name also reminds me of something else, something Dr. Luther wrote in the Large Catechism. He wrote: If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and reckon upon having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies who will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where the Word of God is preached, accepted, or believed, and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be wanting. And let no one think that he shall have peace; but he must risk whatever he has upon earth-possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam; for the test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience in whatever way we are assailed, and to let go whatever is taken from us.

7)         Where the Word of God is preached, accepted, believed, and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be wanting. The holy cross of which Luther so often spoke is the cross of suffering and persecution for the sake of the gospel. Where the gospel is purely preached, the holy cross of persecution from the world and the false church will be there also. Where the gospel is preached and believed with the heart, there the devil will be with all his fiery darts of temptation, despair, and false belief. We have all of this here in our congregation. It’s part of our history. It will be part of our future. But persecution for the sake of the gospel, the disdain of the world and false church, and all the temptations of the devil, for as terrible as they are, are still signs of God’s blessing. The devil, the world, and the sinful nature would not seek to tear down a house in which Christ does not dwell. We have the gospel purely preached, therefore the holy cross will not be lacking in our midst. But take heart, children of God, for built on the Rock the church doth stand “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). For this reason, even in the midst of suffering and persecution for the gospel, we rejoice. For seventy years Christ has abided in this house to bring salvation to sinners as He did in the house of Zacchaeus. For this we give thanks and we pray that Christ will graciously abide here through His Word and Sacraments for seventy years more, so that on the Lord’s Day, and every day on which we gather, Christ might be present through His gospel and sacraments so proclaim to us, “Today salvation has come to this house.

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

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